Most of you will have heard of the recent strikes by school children demanding action for climate change. They were sparked by Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old girl from Sweden who initiated the strikes by sitting in front of the Swedish Parliament last August. Since then, the movement has only grown, with students from over 100 countries walking out of class worldwide and Greta being nominated for a Nobel peace prize.
On Friday 15th March, hundreds of school and university students gathered in support outside Sheffield Town Hall, holding placards and chanting “system change for climate change”. Whilst it’s upsetting to think of the devastating impacts our planet is inevitably going to face, it gives me hope to see the strikes gaining so much support.
The strikes are planned to continue every Friday until policies are implemented to reduce carbon emissions. Whilst students have been criticised for missing time at school, they claim they won’t have a future to study for if urgent action isn’t taken by governments. By taking to the streets, young people across the world are having their voices heard and raising awareness of the importance of climate change. Many politicians have expressed their support for the strikes, including Jeremy Corbyn and Angela Merkel. It’s time for governments to start taking climate change more seriously. There are many small actions individuals can take to lower their impact, but ultimately system change is required to have far-reaching change. The science is there but the policies aren’t.
Given the scale of the climate crisis, it can often feel hopeless. There are loads of organisations and societies that students in Sheffield can get involved in to make a difference. Within our university, the Carbon Neutral University Network aims to support the University in becoming carbon neutral by 2025. People and Planet campaigns for environmental and social justice issues, Save our Sandwiches aims to reduce food waste, and the Sustainability Committee represents students and societies on ethical and environmental issues.
The University of Sheffield Clean Energy Switch is the Sustainability Committee’s current campaign, aiming to persuade the University to switch to a clean low-carbon energy supplier. Within the city, the Sheffield Climate Alliance is a network of organisations pressing for fair and effective action to tackle climate change. They run events and campaigns that seek to improve sustainability on both a local and global scale. Joining the Facebook pages for these groups can be a great way to find out about events happening in the area.
Tackling climate change is the most important threat our generation faces. The school strikes about climate change are the action that the world desperately needs. You have a voice, use it!